There's something about foreign horror (and cinema in general) I find so much more appealing than its American cousin.
A large portion of them aren't just splatter pictures consisting of lots of sex, drugs and beautiful people getting chopped to pieces made to appeal to the teen Friday night movie crowd. These movies actually have a great story and substance to back up all the blood and guts, and aren't worried about whether it should be in 3-D or not. In my opinion, they feel a bit more "grown up".
With that said, I bring you MARTYRS. This film by far, is the front runner to the amazing horror coming out of France along side "Haute Tension", "frontier(s)", "Inside", "La Horde" and soon to be released "Mutants". At first glance it may come off as just another "torture porn" alongside such films as Eli Roth's "Hostel" and Koreas POV gore-fest "The Butcher", but I assure you it's so much more than that and it isn't full of merely senseless killing. Every death is justified in a beautiful cornucopia of gore. Martyrs makes those other movies look like Disney films in comparison.
The movie opens with a young Lucie running stiff legged from her torturers whom she just escaped from. She's in her underwear, her head is shaved and she's covered in blood and bruises. Her cries and the look on her face alone will haunt you, but it only gets more horrific from here on out. She is then rescued and brought to a mental institute for children where she meets Anna, the films other protagonist.
Cut to years later and you're in a typical run of the mill families home. A father, mother, daughter and son. They're all around the breakfast table eating and discussing the days agenda and suddenly the doorbell rings. The father goes and answers it to find a now fully grown Lucie on the other side, shot gun in hand, aiming it right at his chest. With no hesitation she fires, filling him full of buck shot. The shell shreds his body apart and launches him into the wall. Lucie then takes her sites on the mother who goes to run, only to find a few shells in her back. She then proceeds to hunt down and kill the children. By the end of this whole ordeal you'd think the white walls of the house were actually red because of all the blood. Turns out this was the family who tortured her as a child and she had finally hunted them down and gotten her revenge.
Lucie calls Anna, telling her she had found the family. Rushing over she is horrified at what she finds, but Lucie feels justified in what she did, and to what extent she took it. At this point you don't know whether to believe Lucie or not and begin to question her sanity because throughout this whole ordeal, and as a child, Lucie has been haunted by a bloody woman who moves in jerky motions that inflicts severe pain on her. Think the ghost from "Ju-On" but super violent and mutilated. It's not until Anna does some snooping in the house and finds the basement that your faith in Lucie and the justifications in her actions comes back. Keep in mind this is all only about 30 minutes into the movie.
I don't want to get into too much more detail about what goes on, because if I say anymore I'll spoil it. Basically, the family are members of a cult who wants to know whether or not there is life after death. They have found that woman have a higher tolerance for pain, and have found many cases in which the woman should be dead, but remain alive with a glazed over look in their eyes as if they're in a state of ecstasy. One case being where the womans head was decapitated completely from her body, but remained alive. They have reached "martyrdom" which means "witness" in Greek. A martyr is defined as "one who suffers death on behalf of his or her faith, often for refusing to renounce it." The cult aims to achieve this discovery by any means necessary. They kidnap women and do unspeakable acts of torture to them until they're on the brink of death in an attempt to gain this highly sought out knowledge. There is one scene that is literally about five minutes of just straight beatings.
This movie is not for the faint of heart, and it will stick with you for quite sometime. About half way through it does a complete 180 and hits you from left field. This is where the real meat of the film shows itself. It's a roller coaster of extremely graphic violence and torture, and the ending alone merits it a place in your DVD collection, if not in your rental que. I advise you not to watch it if you do not like extreme acts of violence on women because the entire plot of the movie is essentially based around it.
With that said, MARTYRS is personally one of my favorite movies in the horror genre and I HIGHLY recommend it . I don't know what they're teaching film makers in France, but I say keep it up and I can't wait to see what else the country has in store in the future.